Notes from the Past

Sam Singer, and Faked Perforations

Contrary to belief, faked perforation operations are not always done with a perforating machine.  The late and notorious Sam Singer, who had an international reputation as a repair artist, once told me that he could imitate any gauge of perforation, which he accomplished by punching out the perforated holes singly, by matching another stamp against the edge of the item to be perforated and punching the holes on by one with a round-pointed die of the proper size.

Sam began his career in Paris, but fled to greener pastures in America in the late 1890s.  I came to know singer rather well, and visited his home in New York on many occasions.  I suppose I always had a journalistic strain in my blood, but he fascinated me and I cultivated him to some extent, though there was no misunderstanding on either side.  He trusted no one and was aware that no one trusted him.  The late Percy G. Doane had long before tagged him as one of his "noble characters."

I remember his "repair" layout, where he performed most of his labors.  His work-bench resembled the type customarily used by watch-makers.  He had been a superb craftsman in his day, but in these later years his skill had become quite inferior, and his eyes were not what they had been.  He had worked so well that in later years he often bought back, without recognition, many "very fine" copies of the old Europeans which he had repaired long years before.  When this would happen, he would manifest no evidence of pride in his earlier workmanship, instead, it would infuriate him and he would express disgust with himself for having failed to spot his own repair work.  It was then he began to use a handstamp on all repair jobs, a small "M" in a circle, to indicate to him, "Mended," so that he wouldn't be stuck with the thing himself later.

He would go to great lengths to impress me, and would show me numerous booklets of beautiful-looking material, jammed with triangular "Capes," early Romanians, Swiss, French, Oldenburgs, and all the other old German states, lot which he would be putting together for his "next trip to Europe."  He would emphasize the exceptional imperforate margins and the general all-around excellence of the stuff.  I would look and listen respectfully, but I knew it was a shotgun loaded for the unwary and I wouldn't have invested a dime in any of it.  He was an enterprising predatory rogue, and I always felt sympathy for those ultimately ambushed by these masquerading philatelic cast-offs.  But in France, he had places where he could lay it down -- and did, repeatedly.  His attitude toward philately and all those who made a study of stamps was one of utter and absolute contempt.

- George B. Sloane
Sloan's Column
June 18, 1949
Posted July 29, 2000

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